We Are Losing Our Bass Stocks
A combination of unfolding circumstances is leading to the rapid destruction of the country’s inshore bass stocks and a loss of the valuable Recreational Sea Fishery, along with thousands of jobs in the Recreational Sea Fishing sector.
Already under great pressure, and with a legal minimum landing size set far below spawning age, because there is no quota for bass commercial fishermen are free to help themselves to bass stocks almost without restriction.
And with little available quota for other species, many more fishermen are increasingly turning to bass to maintain their profits.
Appallingly, DEFRA simply have no idea of the number of boats now targeting bass, nor the amount of netting that is being deployed (which can be up to 20 miles of net from one small vessel), and so are completely unable to manage the fishery.
The fuel crisis too is playing its part, as fishermen turn from making longer sea journeys and concentrate on exploiting local inshore stocks.
They are also turning away from fuel-hungry fishing methods such as bottom-trawling to setting static gear such as gill-nets for bass, with a huge increase in the numbers of marine mammals and birds becoming entangled in nets set for bass.
And if this was not enough, illegal fishermen have realised that budget restrictions have severely affected the ability of Sea Fisheries Committees and the Environment Agency to carry out enforcement of the few existing regulations protecting bass, and within protected areas to anything like the extent required, leading to widespread illegal fishing by ‘bass pirates’.
With a recruitment failure evident in bass stocks over the last three years, unless the Government takes rapid and firm action to further protect bass stocks and to ensure adequate enforcement, it is likely that the developing and valuable Recreational Sea Fishery for bass will become another ‘what could have been’ to be laid at the foot of the Government.
In view of these concerns, John Leballeur, chairman of the B.A.S.S. Restoration Team has written to Jonathan Shaw MP, the UK’s Fisheries Minister, demanding urgent action on measures to protect bass stocks, and to ensure that enforcement agencies are properly funded to meet the rapidly growing need for more robust enforcement.